Saturday 30 August 2014

Just a couple for today

The Safari didn't get far today but two 'convenience' trips out with Frank both times saw him come back with a hitch-hiker in the form of a Hawthorn Shield Bug nymph on his back! Are there loads about this year or was this fluke?
Here's the first and larger one, we didn't have a camera handy for the second.
The other day we had a Broad Boarded Yellow Underwing in the moth trap - bonny! But this one's a bit worn. A chunky beast.
Where to next? Mothy is on and we're hopeful that there won't be a soggy mess in the morning - no Wasps would be good too.
In the meantime let us know what's apparently overly numerous in your outback.

Friday 29 August 2014

The day of 'S'

The Safari had a soggy day out today. We were a little undecided where to go but eventually plumbed to go north rather than east or south. The weather was poor with sudden sharp showers making the motorway a bit tricky with lots of spray from the trucks. It looked like we were in for a soaking!
We had hoped to get on site for 07.00 but that didn't happen and it was a late 08.15 when we pulled into the car park - jeez how slow can traffic get these days!
Minutes before we arrived we saw a Little Egret fly over the road and then a 'probable' Great White Shark - sorry - Egret in flight over the reedbeds to our right but we couldn't confirm it from the driver's seat.
Only one thing for it nip down to the nearest hide to where it landed first.
It wasn't in view, there's lots of hidden pools and ditches on the reserve so it was undoubtedly fishing on one of those. There wasn't a lot about apart from a family of Mute Swans and a few Shovelers, the drakes must be the bonniest of the ducks in their eclipse plumage.
Back tracking a little way to the next hide sent us past a young lad and lass volunteers doing some heavy duty hammering and crow-barring improving the path. A soon as we were in the hide we had to move quietly and very gently as there was a Red Deer showing on the edge of the reeds only a few yards away, not a stag a young hind.
OK so the Red Deer are great but there was a rather pleasant surprise, the water-level has been dropped for management reasons to improve the reed-bed and the exposed mud had several Swan Mussels, not seen one of those for a long time and never seen them here before, but then we've never seen the water this low before.
Great stuff - wildlife always throws a curve-ball you're not expecting.
Time to nick off to the 'main' hide where we immediately saw a different Great White Egret (159). It stood still most of the morning but eventually moved a round a bit.
The supporting cast was a couple of hundred Black Tailed Godwits, some still in their stunning rusty summer breeding plumage. We soon found three Ruffs and then a Spotted Redshank. Almost 400 Teal had returned for the winter too.
We saw this too, can you guess what it is?
JC, who we've not seen for a good few years, came in to the hide and said 'there's an Otter just over there in the corner'. Wow and did it perform! It was around on and off most of the morning. Yes the mystery photo is the Otter's tail raised during a vigorous bout of fishing. At times it was coming up covered in mud so it must have been footling around in the mud. Occasionally it came up chewing but we were never able to see what exactly it was eating.
Sadly it never came near enough for quality pics and we were shooting through glass windows, we couldn't see it from the windows that do open.
Never have we watched an Otter for this long anywhere, excellent, well worth getting wet for!
We filled our boots with the Otter and then made our way towards the next hides but we'd been told there was a team of wardens cutting reeds there and that was why there numbers of Teal and godwits was so high here so we didn't bother going that far, later we learnt that there were four Greenshanks there which we didn't realise we've somehow not seen so far this year - dohhh.
We did stop at the kids pond dipping platform where several dragonflies putting on a flying display. We couldn't get any pics of the two Emperors but the Common Darters were much more obliging.
One of the Emperors caught a large fly but then spat it out and it came and landed somewhat stunned next to the Common Darter
Interesting chequerboard pattern it has - not seen one like that before.
Also not seen before is a hoverfly like this. It has a fringe of yellow hairs around its abdomen,you can just about make them out, not the best pic the darned thing closed its wings just at the wrong time!
 Any ideas CR?
We went back to the first hides but to no more success although on the way back the 'ususal' tree had a nice selection of birds looking for food, a Marsh Tit, Robins, a Dunnock a lovely Nuthatch and this gorgeous Blue Tit.
Back at the main hide a Water Rail showed 'well' with a juvenile Moorhen.
Again the Otter showed and this time swam/ploughed its way right across the mere in front of us only to disappear for good into the reed on our right hand side.
The birds just kept a wary eye on it, had it been properly swimming and diving we've no doubt they'd all have flushed.
We spent a lot of time acting as an impromptu 'guide in the hide' letting the kids coming in have a look at the Otter or egret through our scope...they loved it!
Great day but we decided to leave a little early to avoid the traffic - we didn't!
Where to next? Not sure about tomorrow yet but there will be wildlife involved somewhere.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Pretty perfect but no can go

The Safari looked longingly at the sea on the way to work, after it being very choppy yesterday it was like a carpet this morning, more Wilton or Axeminster than Lino but far far calmer than it had been but we had no possibility of getting out for a look until lunchtime at least. One day soon we'd like to get a glimpse of another Harbour Porpoise or two, it's getting a bit late in the season for another show from the Bottlenose Dolphins, we're getting blubber withdrawal symptoms!
It seemed to take an age for lunchtime to arrive but when it did we were off over to Patch 2 like a shot, only to find the wind had picked up again and although was blowing offshore the sea was well lumpy again - dohhh. We couldn't find anything of note out there at all. Less than ten minutes later we were back behind the desk, but at least we were doing something for our very important Primary Science Teaching Trust wildlife project.
Towards the end of the working afternoon JB and the Safari got the underwater camera out and had a footle round with the attachments and eventually found a decent stick to attach it to - only one thing was going to happen now - a dunking in the works pond!
How many 3-Spined Sticklebacks can you see, we thought we'd got 'most' of them and this 'litle' shoal is only one of several we saw!
Getting there with the underwater cam but still some more practice is needed, a little more time this arvo would have been useful but as it was we forgot a chore we should have done on the way home - dohhhh.
Where to next? Another family day tomorrow but there may be some wildlife to be spotted.
In the meantime let us know who's cruisin round in your outback

Monday 25 August 2014

Away to the south west corner of Wales

The Safari's Extreme Photographer  has upped sticks and left Lancashire for the sunnier climes of Pembrokeshire. He's been there nearly a month and after a busy couple of weeks settling into his new job has been out n about over the last few days exploring his new environment.
We'll miss his company on our safaris, always good fun but wish him well in his new venture and of course look forward to receiving email updates of new sites and finds. So far it's looking good down there!
Here's his first offerings
Wheatears are on the move right now so it's not surprising that one has turned up on his patch. They breed all around the coast there too
Meadow Grasshopper  
On the hunt
Common Lizard
Sloughing its skin
Not a bad selection at all for starters, we're sure that as he explores further afield and discovers more sites there'll be some cracking pics of brilliant Welsh wildlife for you to enjoy. We eagerly await his next 'delivery' and just as well they came through cos it's been a dreadful Bank Holiday weather-wise here in Safari-land and we haven't been inspired to go out and enjoy our local wildlife at all.
Where to next? Back to work tomorrow but there mightn't be much time for a Patch 2 visit.
In the meantime let us know if you were enthused to get out in your outback today

Sunday 24 August 2014

Another fun day on the beach

The Safari was out last night helping with a moth and bat night at a nearby park.
Here's some pics
Why do grown men and kids stand in the dark with slender sticks held high - no it's not some wierd political convention
Bats! That's wot...and they had a couple of 'hits' as the bat connected with the 'artificial' midge!
Here's a Pipistrelle Bat that one of participants kindly brought in, it had been found dead in a disused house some time ago - soooo tiny.
Sorry it's a bit blurry - our wrangler won't keep still
 Moth numbers were quite high considering the cold brisk wind, lots of Square Spot Rustic but a couple of Gold Spots were the highlight
After the usual Sunday morning chores it was time to go and start our final beach family event of the summer season on which we were joined by FW and family for some sand, salty fun in the sun, although Frank may well have been star of the show.
What a superb office this arvo
Beadlet Anemone by FW
Compass Jellyfish by FW
Masked Crab
 You can tell you've been exploring properly if this is the end result

Here's a short bit of video from the underwater-cam, we can see we're going to have some fun with this kit.

FW, HW & the Safari
A great day was had by all - hope you've signed the petition, if you haven't please do!
Where to next? Bank Holiday tomorrow so the weather is bound to be iffy so we may well have a virtual safari to SW Wales for you.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in the depths of the wellies in your outback.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Those of a nervous disposition should...

The Safari was out not long after first light this morning and heard the local Robin singing its winter song. The days are quickly drawing in now and we're getting to be going out with Frank at the time of sunrises, must take camera out in morning and it'll be fully dark by 9pm in only a few days time. Autumn will be on us in a jiffy, and it feels autumnal today with a very blustery cold wind. The average August daily maximum temperature is 19C today it has struggled to reach 15C and in that wind it feels like 9C  - decidedly flippin chilly and a long way off 'summer'.
Here's some pics from a few of our recent family events.
There's a bonus point if you can spot a member of the Next Generation Birders in the netting throng 
The little girl seems to be trying to identify just what she had found! All that training in the construction industry when we were but a nipper seems to have paid off.
Many thanks to Family Learning's JS for the pics and an 'interesting' quote.

Not a lot of chance to have a look at much today but the briefest of visits to Patch 2 was rewarded with about 10 Manx Shearwaters a few of which were reasonably close inshore. They'll be heading off to the sunnier shores of southern Brazil before too long the lucky devils.

The ban driven grouse shooting petition approaches 16000 signatories but we think it should be far more than that. There were 22000 people at the Birdfair and the total number of signatures before then was about 13000. Lets say 1/3 had already signed, that leaves 14500 peeps that  hadn't, say an extremely generous half of those are infiltrators from the game industry that still leaves 7250 people who must have seen 'Harry', listened to or learned of the speeches by Chris Packham et al yet since the bird fair the number of signatures has only gone up by about 3000; it should be well over 20000 by now  - come on folks where are you or had nearly every one who went to the Birdfair already signed it? 
Let's get our upland wildlife and it's habitats back to something resembling a functioning ecosystem for more than a handful of people to enjoy. If you think our uplands look good be aware of the shifting baseline syndrome, particularly as this baseline is shifting downwards! European uplands have trees, scrub and even wildlife in them surely we should have more than just a massive over population of Red Grouse, a few Meadow Pipits and too much rather pretty Heather.
Don't think it affects you, well you pay for removal of peat colour from the water that comes through your tap, some of which is caused by grouse moor drainage, and you pay increased home insurance premiums for flooding some of which is exacerbated by grouse moor drainage (allegedly) and you think you pay too much tax some of which goes to pay for huge agricultural subsidies to among the wealthiest in our society mentioning no names but one of them has her pic on all the stamps, is a grouse moor really agricultural land? OK it might have a few sheep on it but is grazing of sheep its primary purpose - of course not! 

Where to next? Family day tomorrow but there's bound to be something to see.
In the meantime let us know who's enjoying the craic in your outback.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Back on the beach yet again

The Safari started well this morning when a Grey Wagtail (P2 #67) flew over us as we were fumbling with the keys to unlock the front door to the office first thing! Later in the morning we were with the families on the beach again today for the penultimate time this summer season. The early morning had us once again filled with trepidation due to torrential downpours but we needn't have worried as with yesterday the rain dried up and the sun came out. 
We'd arranged the Family Learning team to meet the families at a different place, not just over the road from the office on Patch 2, this time we were up the road a bit by the pier an area we've not really investigated to any degree before.
After a brief intro we gave everyone a net and pot and off they went down the beach. There are no rockpools on this stretch of seawall, it's the 'new' bit with the 'Spanish steps'. The tide had not long dropped and a large shallow pool had been left - just ripe for a  serious amount of netting. 
There were plenty of Sand Gobies but they were so difficult to catch! A couple did manage to find their way in to a pot. A nice variety of shells were found including a huge heavy rather old Iceland Cyprine probably well older than we are, many nice Striped Venuses, even a old Native Oyster, not old in the same sense as the long lived Iceland Cyprine, this was probably eaten as a snack on the beach some time between the wars and chucked away like the kids do with MacDonalds wrappers today and had been rolling around in the surf for all those years.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps there were very few Brown Shrimps, on Patch 2 a runnel like this would be crammed with them. Arthropods were represented by a fair number of small and medium sized Green Shore Crabs along with a couple of Masked Crab carapaces and some shed skins of a species of swimming crab, we're not sure which but possibly Liocarcinus holsatus. The best find was an enormous pincer from an Edible Crab.
As ever our hour came to an end all too soon and it was time to pack up and go our separate ways. The kids had a had great fun, and we have to say their parents had too and these are children who don't normally ever get onto the beach even though they live within spitting distance of it. Let's hope they are inspired to explore more often now they've had a taster session.
We had a very fast bite of lunch and then went out with our own net and pot to see what we could find and try some underwater photographs. Not a lot of success we have to say but we'll persevere, we've yet to suss the best way of using the camera, it deffo needs lots of light and the water has to very clear otherwise the pics look like they've been taken in porridge. Perhaps we need to shoot video and just pull still off that.
Here's a couple of shots of a Common Starfish we came across in one of the rockpools. not bad but we could do better.
Where to next? Another attempt at underwater pics tomorrow - we might try some in more controlled conditions to get the hang of it first - we're thinking freshwater and 3-Spined Sticklebacks!
In the meantime let us know hows netting what in your outback.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

A fishy sort of a day

The Safari went out with Frank before bedtime last night and heard a Green Sandpiper (Garden #36) going over. It's a bit of a scarcity but we hear one like this just about annually which leads us to wonder if there's a wet corner in the extensive school grounds across the way and they drop down on there during the hours of darkness, or maybe there's a lot more of them than we think and hearing them isn't unusual at all.
Later in the small hours a torrential downpour woke us up and as we dozed back off to sleep we heard a Curlew calling in the distance. A lovely sound to hear when drifting off to sleep.
This afternoon we had another family event rockpooling on the beach, about 15 young families turned up to explore the beach. All the usual suspects were found and potted for closer inspection. One of the mums called us over to see a flat fish - ohh this one was a bit different to the usual Dabs and Sole we've seen before. we thought it might have been a Plaice but chatting to fisherman friend LR it was actually a Turbot, a species we've not seen here before but according to LR are quite common around the low water mark. We might have a look down there with the older kids at the weekend.
Once back at Base Camp we had a look at what the stealth-cam had picked up. Lots of cats and even more vegetation blowing in the wind and then this little monkey! Strutting around like it owns the place at 07.30 this morning - we were pottering around in the kitchen only a few feet away at the time on our way out to work.
Where to next? Another beach session tomorrow but at a totally different place and one weve not been to look at before, could be interesting!
In the meantime let us know what's trying desperately to blend into the background in your outback.

Monday 18 August 2014

Seconds in

The Safari hardly got out of the house yesterday but a quick wander into the back garden gave us a nice Flesh Fly - look at his bifurcated white trainers, superb face on him too - well we say him but he could easily be a her

This morning we were on tenterhooks and couldn't settle to much as mater was having her cancer op at some time so we got the shears out of the shed and did a bit of therapeutic 'no thinking involved' hacking of the wildlife garden to start prepping it up for winter; hopefully the Young Uns will be able to help finish it off later in the week. 
A quick lunchtime look at Patch 2 was totally unproductive, there being nothing to see at sea at all.
Our afternoon was interrupted by a txt from marine biologist friend DB, she told us there was a Wheatear-like thingy on the back field. We dashed out and sure enough immediately found a Wheatear, only the second we've seen here in 10 years!
We nipped back to the office for the camera while she kept her eye on it for us. Unfortunately there was a number of dog-walkers on the field and it was flushed and flighty and eventually flew up to the roof of the hotel opposite where we got the only pic of it. We hoped it would come back down but it flew off again right over us at height and continued its migration to Africa.
It is a Wheatear - honest!
Where to next? Another mariney exploratory session with the kids tomorrow and the possibility of an exciting development which hopefully we'll perfect in time for our visit by conservation 'royalty' FW and family.
In the meantime let us know what you know you saw but couldn't possibly prove with a dodgy pic in your outback

Saturday 16 August 2014

Not many moffs

The Safari made up a potent brew last night to try in addition to the moth trap - we made a wine rope to hang in the garden. As darkness fell we headed out with our torch to see if anything had found it - sadly we drew a blank every time but that probably had a lot to do with it blowing around wildly in the blustery cold wind. We weren't overly hopeful the trap would pull many in overnight either.
But you never can tell, the wind could have died down, well sometimes it does. 
A passing Curlew was heard to call in the middle of the night so there were some things deffo on the move.
This morning as we dragged Frank out just after 06.00 and as soon as we got to the bigger front gardens along the main road we heard a Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff do a couple of 'hweet' calls from down the road.There were a good number at a localish site early yesterday morning reported to us.
Once back at Base Camp and Frank was breakfasted it was time to check the mothy, would anything be in there?
Here's the full list - it's not that long but goven the obvernight conditions it's probably not too bad for here.
3 Large Yellow Underwings - no escaping them!
1 Lesser Yellow Underwing
1 Shuttle Shaped Dart - nice fresh looking one
2 Agriphila tristella - no escaping them at the mo either
1 Rustic agg
1 something too worn to tell
and star of the show a new for the year Flame Shoulder
It was sluggish enough to take out of the pot for a pic. Once on the table we saw that it extended its long tongue and started to lap up the droplets of rain around it. Never seen that before and didn't realise how long a Flame Shoulder's tongue is - wonder what flowers they prefer to feed at, perhaps one part of moth behaviour seldom seen.
We're a bit annoyed the phone focused just beyond the moth's face for this one
The weather put a full stop on our proposed trip down the motorway to have a look at the Purple Hairstreaks that were reported yesterday. Now will the weather be better next Saturday and if it is will we be able to go as our aging dear Mama has to undergo a serious opration on Monday and we will deffo be on family duty at least one day towards the end of next week.
Where to next? No sure about tomorrow yet, anything could be possible weather permitting!
In the meantime let us know who's lapping it up in your outback